Should Transgender Women be Allowed to Compete in Miss Universe or Miss America Beauty Contests – Yes

Not only should trans-gender women be allowed to compete in Miss America or Miss Universe beauty contests, but men should be able to as well. Mr. Universe contests and the like already exist for men, but if the Miss America and Miss Universe pageants exist primarily to determine the most beautiful contestant, then gender should not determine whether or not a competitor is eligible to compete. The arbitrary categories should be dissolved and all persons who desire to enter such contests should enter a general competition. The wide spread use of age as a discriminating factor in allowing contestants to compete is equally biased. In order to ensure a fair competition, the title and moneys should be awarded to the most beautiful person among the contestants regardless of other peripheral conditions, such as gender.

A problem arises in that beauty criteria are highly personal and subjective. Added to these already narrow limitations which define beauty within a rather narrow framework are the expectations which derive from a sexualized concept of beauty. Men are beautiful in that they display masculine traits and women the characteristics of femininity. Those women or men who have bodies that exaggerate the special qualities of their sex are considered, by popular culture, to be more desirable as sexual partners. At least for those traits which western culture has created as fetish objects, such as breasts in women. If pageants are designed to display these qualities then perhaps the term beauty should be replaced with another term such as “sexual desirability” contests. Much of the backlash against trans-gender contestants is that these contestants defy the traditional associations with such contests which have more to do with an expectation of fertility or sexual desirability than of beauty. Another strange requirement of Miss America is that she must be unmarried. How can this be explained except with the understanding that larger societal expectations are dictating the sexuality of an individual, to display her as a sexually available object.

Cultural standards of beauty and desirability are highly malleable when seen through the lens of different cultures and different time periods within those cultures. In the (nineteen) eighties it was not uncommon, for example, for men to wear long hair, jewelry, and make-up. Was David Bowie any less beautiful than Margaret Thatcher? Should a pageant be limited to a narrow set of sexualized standards of beauty which derive from an arbitrary cultural norm? Is a Marlena Dietrich any less alluring when she wears male clothing to seduce a co-star? Or is she more alluring because of the fact that for a heartbeat she creates a kind of sexual dissonance in that her clothing contradicts the societal expectations for her gender? Perhaps cross-dressing gives a contestant an unfair advantage as this kind of cultural surprise leads to an element of fascination with which the other contestants would presumably be unable to compete.

Being transvestite and being transgender are not equivalent states, but the opposition towards transgender participation in beauty pagents derives from a
fear of individuality which isn’t easily categorized. Remove the gender categories and focus on beauty removed from gender amplification, then the pageants
will provide competition which reflect the real dynamics of beauty.